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December 7, 2012

Tackling the Tasman Sea
Nordhavn 62 Pendana readies for first major bluewater crossing of notorious waterway

A Nordhavn 62 is set to cross what is considered one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water as it embarks this weekend on a 1,200 nm voyage from Sydney, AUS to Auckland, NZ. The 62-foot Pendana will spend six days crossing the Tasman Sea, a notoriously dangerous section of the southwestern Pacific Ocean that lies between the coasts of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.

Tackling the Tasman SeaThe passage will be the longest non-stop voyage for James and Claire Ellingford who purchased Pendana a year ago with ambitions of a life filled with travel. In the past twelve months, the couple have taken the boat through its paces, first along the Florida coast where they purchased the boat, then around the Gold Coast of Australia. The past several months have been spent preparing for their big trip to New Zealand, and the intensity with which they have put into planning are outlined on their website, pendana.net. It includes a passage plan which forecasts predicted speed and fuel consumption, average ocean and atmospheric information as well as expected weather conditions for the two legs; plus provisioning and outfitting/upgrades to Pendana made specifically for the trip. The Ellingfords have spent their latter years on the water, but says James: “While Claire and I have considerable coastal experience we realize that crossing oceans is a completely different proposition.  As this is our first crossing we will make sure we plan very carefully.”

Several Nordhavns have circumnavigated the world, traversed the Bering Strait, even gone around Cape Horn. What makes this six-and-a-half-day trip such a potentially ambitious one? Due to its position, lying in the belt of westerly winds known as the “roaring forties” as well as the varied current patterns that affect it, plus the Great Southern Ocean which feeds into it pushing large volumes of water up against the opposing currents, the Tasman Sea is known for its storminess. As with all large bodies of water, the Tasman Sea can be both a terrifying stretch - sometimes compared by many to the Bering Sea – as well as a smooth-as-glass waterway. The most famous disaster on the Tasman Sea occurred in 1998 in the Sydney To Hobart Yacht Race when 115 boats were confronted with 92kt winds and 80ft seas. As a result, a number of crews perished and only 44 boats reached the finish.

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Tackling the Tasman SeaAfter James retired in 2007, the wheels began spinning on a life filled with long range cruising. A year’s worth of research for a boat that would allow them to travel extensively to anywhere and in safety and comfort led them to Nordhavn. “We were completely sure that the Nordhavn would deliver for us everything that we required and more. It was the door to (making) this reality,” said James.

With departure (weather depending) just a day away, feelings are dominated by excitement and anticipation, said James, who, along with Claire, will be accompanied by daughters Abi and Bianca. (“Abi is perplexed that we can be out in the middle of the sea all by ourselves!” says James.) The family looks forward to making the crossing, not only for the adventure that lies ahead but also the experience and challenges it will bring.

Although capable of handling the boat themselves, the Ellingfords have also hired a captain to make the trip with them, which James attributes to his cautious nature, as well as the need for a third able body on watch. “I am a pretty careful person by nature and I believe that to overestimate our confidence and under prepare could be a recipe for disaster. As such, everything has been meticulously planned for and we are ready to throw the lines off and head to sea in the very real sense of the word.”

Much of the research James completed was at the advice of a number of fellow Nordhavn owners including Ken Williams, owner of N68 Sans Souci, and Craig Brent-White, owner of N62 Atlas.

The Ellingfords offer cruising fans the opportunity to follow along with them during their trip by reading James’ blogs on pendana.net. If you’d like to get the blog updates sent directly to your e-mail box, visit www.pendanablog.com and enter your email address.

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